About last night.
Let me introduce myself, since – much to my chagrin – I didn’t get a chance.
My name is Mere Smith, and I’m a writer. I became aware of you in early 2012, when I heard about your Kickstarter campaign and started listening to your songs.
“Holy shit,” I thought. “This chick’s got brass ovaries and she’s amazingly talented! Hook me up!”
I downloaded “Theatre Is Evil” and paid what I wanted – and as a fellow artist, kicked in a little extra because I know how hard the fucking job is. In the interim, I’ve bought everything in your back catalog, from the Dresden Dolls’ albums to “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” to Evelyn Evelyn and everything in between. I’ve watched your videos, interviews, seen you live – and your TED talk changed the way I think about art and commerce. I read your blog, follow you on Twitter, sent in fabric for your signing tour kimono, and purchased two copies of your book, The Art of Asking – one for me, and one for a friend. What I’m saying here is:
I am your fan.
Not because I’m a star-whore who worships the ground you walk on (write TV for 15 years: it’s an easy way to get maximally disillusioned by celebrity), but because I truly believe in your message. I believe in the worth of your art, the worth of you, as a human being, existing and loving. I believe in your authenticity and am inspired by your strength and willingness to strive for compassion in all areas of your life.
I see you.
But here’s the thing: you’re right. Last night’s signing in L.A. was a shitshow.
A shitshow for you – as you’ve made evident today over Twitter and Instagram – as well as for me. And to be forthright – which painful as it might be, I think you’d appreciate – I wasn’t entirely surprised. Your work has always been pretty clear about what you think of L.A. – overly fond? not so much! – which completely sucks balls, since I live here, and you rarely come through. Even so, I can understand why.
Yes, Hollywood is full of your polar opposites – full of power-hungry sociopaths whose only key to success is making sure others fail. (Let’s be honest: duh.) But judging by the hundreds of people who waited on line for hours yesterday – both before the show and after – you should also be able to see that L.A. is plenty heterogenous, containing multitudes, including free-thinkers who actively seek out voices like yours.
So the L.A. bias? Your very palpable dread of the place? Meh – I get it. I’m not saying I’m over the moon about it, but I get it.
However, that wasn’t the whole reason behind the shitshow. Neither was the “bungly venue,” as you called it. It wasn’t even the chick heckler (the checkler?), or the painful uncomfortability of watching someone who wrote “really fucking horrible things” about you literally ask you for more by requesting to play onstage. (Hey, forgiveness is between the two of y’all, and you presented a fine – even supremely poised – example of compassion last night, no matter how uncomfortable it might have made me or anyone else. As I’m sure you already know, it’s not your responsibility to make everyone feel okay about your personal choices.) Even the monstrously late start time, the monsterier show length, and the insurmountable signing line – sorry, but I bailed at midnight, it was ridonk – all of this I was prepared for. After all, life is messy and complicated and full of unexpected fuck-ups.
Yet out of all those complications and fuck-ups – none of them made me angry.
But I am angry.
I went to bed angry. I woke up angry.
In fact, I’ve been sitting here all day asking myself, “Why am I so pissed about last night? Why am I not just happy I got to see her? What is wrong with me?”
Then I figured it out. (Not what’s wrong with me – that’d be a whole other letter.)
Generally I’m not one to make ad hominem attacks – which is what someone always says right before they make an ad hominem attack – especially since, as you discussed last night: people are real. Just because you let loose on the internet doesn’t mean that real people aren’t reading your words, and that real people don’t feel hurt by them.
That said, Bob Lefsetz was a total ass last night.
As a writer from the Deep South, I have both an extensive vocabulary and a hardwired inclination to politeness – and I assure you, “ass” is absolutely the most polite word I could come up with to describe your guest. I truly hope (and am fairly certain) you won’t re-watch the video of last night, because that icky weirdness you felt? Best as I can tell, almost everyone there felt it, too. And it might’ve been L.A., it might’ve been the venue, or the checkler, or the long wait times, or any other number of things. But for me, what killed your signing last night?
Was Bob Lefsetz being a straight-up sexist ass.
Because the songs you played? Rocked the fuck out.
The readings you did from your book? Were intimate and funny and moving.
But when Bob Lefsetz took over the stage – and I do mean “took over” – it was like watching your friend get punched in the face over and over again and being powerless to stop it.
Amanda, he ran over you so many times I lost count. Interrupted your answers with his own stories and anecdotes. Ran on about his blog, hated on his haters (it was like watching the Bizarro Amanda Palmer, repeatedly calling one of his critics “a motherfucking asshole” – or maybe it was “asshole motherfucker” – I wouldn’t want to misquote). He monopolized the quasi-conversation. Your book “doula” (and fabulous magician!), Jamy Ian Swiss, was given inexcusably short shrift because of Lefsetz’s continual self-righteous monologue – admitting no credit to dissent – about the music industry: in particular, his views on the recent Spotify dust-up featuring Taylor Swift – who is, to quote his recent blog, a “greedy, thoughtless person who’s only about the bucks.”*
You held your own there, insisting – as you do in your book – that artists should be able to choose however they distribute their music. And in my seat I was all, “Rah, Amanda! Stick up for women! Stick up for artists!”
But then he just got worse.
He asked you deeply personal questions you did not want to answer – questions I will not repeat here – questions that I have been asked and have not wanted to answer, most certainly not in front of hundreds of people. You, yourself, said something to the effect of, “Oh, I don’t really wanna go there” – yet still he pushed and pushed until it felt – at least to me – like you had no choice but to answer, or else betray your reputation for sharing your life with your audience. He didn’t seem to get what most people intrinsically know: that no matter how open you are about your life, some shit is personal, dude. It’s private. Lay off.
Walking back to the car, my fiancé (who only now, after three years of intense AFP-proselytizing, is beginning to get why I’m into your work), surprised me by saying, “You know, Amanda Palmer is so talented, and I really liked the parts of her book she read – but that Lefsetz guy, all that negativity, it fucked the whole night up.”
And that’s why I’m angry. Okay, that’s, like, 99% of why I’m angry.
The other 1%…
I’m angry with you, Amanda.
You’re one of my feminist icons. Sometimes when shit gets real, or when I take artistic risks, I make myself brave by thinking, “If Amanda Palmer was doing this, she would be brave. She might be scared, like I am, but then she’d be brave and do it anyway.” Then I get brave and do it anyway.
So why did you let him run over you? Why did you let him interrupt you time and again? Why did you let him push you and make you uncomfortable without saying “no”? Why did you let him talk and talk and talk when it was your night? Your book? Your tour? When the fuck did I buy tickets for the Bob Lefsetz Show and where can I return them?
I don’t know. Maybe this is victim-blaming, only I can’t see it because “victim” is the last word I’d ever use to describe you. Maybe I just needed to write all this down to sort it out in my head. Because what I’d been looking forward to for weeks was listening to you. And instead I got Bob “Ass” Lefsetz. For hours.
If you ever do come to L.A. again – though after last night I won’t hold my breath – will you please come alone? Or maybe bring Whitney, or Jamy, or Anthony, or Kambriel, or Neil, or a band, or some dancing monkeys or corporate CPAs who do mime – whatever – just bring someone who won’t figuratively punch you in the face?
Because I’m still working on my compassion, and next time I can’t guarantee I won’t punch back.
*Anyone who’d like to read Lefsetz’s bona fides when it comes to female musicians (apart from Joni Mitchell, who I’m convinced he thinks is the Second Coming), can Google his thoughts on Beyoncé, Feist, Adele, Grace Potter, and – while I’m at it – this charm of a quote about the fans at a One Direction concert:
“Students. Girls. Wanna get laid? Go to a 1D show. You won’t see odds this good at the prison of ‘Orange Is The New Black’. An endless sea of barely pubescent girls…”
That oughtta give you a starting point.